Outrage is building after a man fatally shot a 13-year-old Black middle school student whom he suspected of breaking into cars in a Washington, D.C., neighborhood.
Karon Blake of Northeast Washington was killed Saturday, Metropolitan Police said.
Police found Karon with apparent gunshot wounds as they responded to a report of a shooting just before 4 a.m. Saturday in the 1000 block of Quincy Street NE. Karon was taken to a hospital and died after lifesaving attempts, officials said.
Detectives determined that a man in a nearby residence said he had “heard noises and observed someone that appeared to be tampering with vehicles.”
The man went outside with a registered firearm to investigate and had an “interaction” with Karon.
“During the interaction, the male resident discharged his firearm striking the victim,” police said.
The man who opened fire has not been identified or arrested. He is Black, and he has retained legal counsel, Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said Tuesday.
Detectives are gathering the facts and will present the case to the U.S. attorney’s office for possible charges, he said.
“A grand jury will determine if a crime occurred based on facts — and not mere speculation,” Contee said.
Authorities said that "two juvenile males" were seen running from the scene and that at least two cars were damaged on the block of the shooting, NBC Washington reported. Police later said they found a stolen car, which they believe Karon had used, near the scene.
Neighbors said they heard four to five gunshots, the station reported.
Contee was sharply critical of what he said were misinformation and speculation about the case, which he called tragic. There are social media images showing people who have no connection to the case, he said.
“People are making assumptions and searching for people that are not involved. People are making allegations centered around race — and that is wrong,” Contee said.
The man who shot Karon called police after the incident, Contee said. When officers arrived, he was performing CPR and gave officers an account of what happened, Contee said.
Karon was a 'quiet and inquisitive scholar'
Karon was a student at Brookland Middle School.
The school’s principal, Kerry Richardson, said in a note to the school’s staff, obtained by NBC Washington, that he was a “quiet and inquisitive scholar who loved fashion and football."
"Although he loved his neighborhood, he loved Brookland MS (the faculty & his peers) and the structure it presented to him even more,” Richardson wrote.
He is survived by his mother and three younger siblings, Richardson said.
In a letter to the families of the school community, Richardson wrote: “With great sadness, I share that a Brookland student tragically lost their life to gun violence in the early morning of January 7. Let us join in sending love and support to their family as they grieve this devastating loss. As a member of the Brookland family, we know our student will be missed by all who know them."
The school is offering mental health resources and counseling to support students and staff members.
'Property is not greater than life'
Pressure has mounted for answers, with local lawmakers condemning the shooting and demanding that the name of the person who opened fire be made public.
“Property is not greater than life. Karon should be alive today," D.C. Council member Christina Henderson tweeted Monday.
Ward 5 council member Zachary Parker said in a statement Monday: “He was a son, brother, friend and student who should still be here. I am deeply saddened and outraged by Karon’s killing.
“No car or material possession is worth a life — under any circumstances. I join Ward 5 residents in calling on the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to hold accountable the individual who took Karon’s life,” he continued.
Residents at a community meeting Tuesday questioned why the shooter had not been arrested — or at least publicly identified. Some said it was insulting that the shooter’s name had not been released.
A woman who identified herself as Karon’s aunt called for justice. “We want justice — he’s 13, he was a baby," she said at the meeting.
Assistant Police Chief Morgan Kane said police have seized the weapon and are working with the U.S. attorney’s office.
If police go before a judge before they are ready, they could jeopardize the case, and investigators know they need more evidence, like video, she said.
“The last thing that we want to do is sacrifice an outcome that you all are looking for,” Kane said.
The community groups DC Safety Squad, Ward 5 Mutual Aid and Harriet’s Wildest Dreams also demanded the release of the shooter's name and any visual evidence.
In a statement, DC Safety squad said: “Karon Blake was senselessly murdered. ... We are calling on Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Lindsey Appiah to immediately have the name of Karon’s killer and any photo or video evidence collected released."
In a statement, Appiah said, “As a government, we are committed to being as open and transparent as possible in all matters while also ensuring that we act in a manner that advances the fair and equitable administration of justice."
Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday she was "incredibly saddened."
“We would rather be talking about a 13-year-old going to school today than to talk about him being killed on one of our streets," she said.
“If you feel that there is a public safety issue in or around your home, call 911. That is the appropriate thing to do, to call 911,” she added.
Six people were killed in Washington in the first week of the new year, including Karon, according to the police crime dashboard.